I wrote a post last month to honor my mother’s memory last month. This one is for my father. Dear Abbu. I know you are in a better place now and have been gone for almost 44 years but I just want to let you know that I am so very grateful to you for everything you did for me and our family. Before I thank you for the things you did for me (like I did to thank Ammi on Mother’s Day), I would like to share with everyone a life lesson you taught me way back when.
We are seven brothers and sisters and when I was old enough to be aware of my surroundings, I found ourselves living in a two-room house. I am talking about a two-room, and not two bedroom-house. (No, this is not one of those ‘how-poor-we-were’ stories, as you will read on). I know, Abbu, you grew up living a very good life since your father was the personal physician of the state of Rampur in the undivided India before moving to Pakistan. That’s when things became rather challenging, as you struggled to make a living in the new country.
Despite our rather modest means (and that’s putting it mildly), your focus was on providing good education to your seven children. We might not have had good clothes or any other amenities but you would save enough to pay for our education. You always emphasized the virtues of hard work and honesty- NOT by telling us but by living it. You taught us that ‘there are no short cuts to success’. We had days when we had lunch and were not sure if we were going to have the dinner. The talk around our household was not about what we will have for the next dinner, but whether we will have dinner.
You used to work in the Pakistani Customs and Clearance field, a sector famous for its massive “under the table income”. It was no secret that everyone there would earn a very modest salary but would have more than enough of the ‘under-the table’ income to own several homes, like so many of your friends did. But you being the straight arrow you were, would have none of that, and always believed in making money the right way, even if it meant going through all the hardship for yourself and Ammi and your children.
I was about 10 or 11 years old when I heard you talking to a friend of yours, which I remember vividly to this day.
He asked you how many homes did you have. (Mind it, he did not ask if my father had a house but rather, how many). You replied, “I have seven homes”. This shocked your friend and he said in amazement something to the effects of ‘wow, I under-estimated your talents’. You went on to tell your friend, “I have seven homes but they are all under construction”. Your friend was still very impressed.
You then went on to explain what I cherish to this day: “ My seven children are my seven homes and they are all under construction as I am providing them good education”.
I know you meant school education but the education I received with this seemingly casual conversation that day provided me an education of a different kind, which has left imprints on my memory that is so fresh to this day. I am sure it was very tempting to do what your friends were doing in the industry, especially when you saw us struggle to have the basic necessities- food, clothing among them. Having children of my own now, I know how much you loved us, and how hard it must have been for you to see us struggle. But you were steadfast in withholding your principles of hard work and honesty, no matter what. It is so easy to uphold these high principles when you have enough to live by, but it is totally another story when you stick to your guns in the face of significant adversity.
• You loved me even before I was born. You loved me even before you laid your eyes on me.
• You fed me when I did not how to feed myself. You fed me before you fed yourself. You helped me when I was totally helpless. • You taught me how to talk, and spent countless hours when I struggled with making a sentence. You patiently listened and taught me how to correctly say it.
• You taught me how to eat (yes, you told me to eat from my right hand if I tried to use my ‘wrong hand’, if you know what I mean). You taught me how to say, “Shukar Allah” (Thank God) when I finished eating. You also taught me WHY I should say so.
• You taught me how to walk, when I would stumble. You held my hand whenever I needed one. Even when I drove you crazy running around.
• You were not as “religious” as Mom was, but still showed me the way of God with your principles and values, that were based on the Islamic teachings and code of conduct. You taught me the right from wrong. You taught me by example. You lived a ‘righteous’ life however one may define it. You did not hurt people. You were always there to offer help to others in the hour of their need. You showed me how to be on an even keel, no matter what kind of bumps I faced on the road of life.
• You always reminded me how tough the medical school would be, and that the secret to success was not just being smart, but in working super hard- harder than others. It is ironic that you never saw me enter medical school, as God took you away just a few months before I entered medical school- a dream of yours.
You were the living proof for me as to why many verses in the Qur’an mention worshipping God (a fundamental commandment) and kindness to parents side-by-side, and Hadiths of Prophet Muhammad on the importance of parents, such as:
And your Lord has commanded that you shall not worship (any) but Him, and kindness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) “Ugh” nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word. And out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: ‘My Lord! bestow on them Thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood’. The Qur’an 17:23-24.
A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your father. ( Hadith: Bukhari, Muslim).
I know I will never be able to repay for what you did for me. Your love (and Ammi’s) was second only to God’s love. Your forgiveness was second only to God’s forgiveness. Your caretaking was second only to God’s caretaking.
But what I can easily say is that I would not be who I am without you and the way you raised us. May you rest in peace, in the companionship of the most righteous ones, near God, in the highest places in Jennah. I hope to one day see you again to say ‘Thank you’ in person, and will strive hard to make sure I am deserving of that honor. Ameen.